Recently, Dick Eastman, wrote about a new online database titled “1771 Massachusetts Tax Inventory” which also includes Maine since it was, then, “the Province of Massachusetts Bay.” This database, as he describes it, has the names of nearly “38,000 individuals who resided in 152 Massachusetts towns in 1771” and data such as the “type and value of real estate and buildings, as well as tabulation of livestock and farm commodities produced” and it further has features allowing you to “browse the data by selecting items to view and “drilling down” through totals for counties and towns to the holdings of individual taxpayers.” Furthermore, there is an “interactive map [that] helps you locate towns and counties in the state” which is based “upon a map of Massachusetts drawn in 1792 and scanned from the Harvard University map collection.” Using this, I went to the database itself and searched for two families of my ancestors: the Hirsts and the Packards (the focus of my sister blog, Packed with Packards).
While no result for “Hirst” appeared, there were over 40 Packards listed, many of whom were living in Bridgewater.
Of these, I focused on two in particular: Barnabas and Zechariah, both subjects of my family history, as noted on Packed with Packards! Barnabas was described as a resident of Bridgewater who owned a dwelling house, half a gristmill, 8 acres of pasture for 4 cows, 3 acres which were tilled, 4 acres of upland mowing land, 3 acres of fresh meadow while producing 26 bushels of grain a year, 2 barrels of cider a year, 2.5 tons of hay from the upland area a year, and 2 tons of hay from the fresh meadow area a year. It also said that Barnabas had 1 horse, 6 goats and sheep, 1 swine, did not own a servant, had 26 pounds lent at interest, and had a property worth only 13 pounds! This meant that in total Barnabas owned 18 acres and was doing moderately well, but was not in the gentry of the Massachusetts colony, as one would expect for the Packards:
Then there’s Zechariah Packard, who was a slaveowner. He had a different situation. He was also living in Bridgewater. While he had one dwelling house, he had 5 acres of pasture for 6 cows, 6 tilled acres, 4 acres of upland mowed land, 3.8. acres of fresh meadow, while producing 71 bushels of grain, 2 tons of hay from his upland mowed land, and 8 tons of hay from his fresh meadow land. Additionally, he had 1 horse, 4 oxen, 6 goats & sheep, and 3 swine, along with one servant “for life” (a slave), with his real estate worth 14 pounds. He was definitely doing better than Barnabas, owning 18.8. acres compared to Barnabas’s 18, but was still not the most prosperous in the colony of Massachusetts.
Then there’s the interactive map (from 1792 but still can be used to find towns noted in the 1771 database itself) Using the available features, one is able to focus on Plymouth county:
From there, you can focus on Bridgewater, in the northwest corner of the county.
This is a good resource, on the whole of learning more about Massachusetts and one’s ancestors, without question.